Hall of Famer counsels I.H.S. students

Immokalee High School students had another great opportunity to gain some first hand knowledge from a world class gentleman on and off the sports arena.

Thanks to 1×1 Leadership, two periods of students filled the auditorium on October 16 to see Basketball Hall of Famer Ralph Sampson and hear about his life and his guiding philosophy first-hand.

Basketball Hall of Famer Ralph Sampson with Sinclair Williams of 1x1 Leadership, Principal Ken Fairchild and John Lawson of 1x1 Leadership. (Patty Brant/ Immokalee Bulletin)

Basketball Hall of Famer Ralph Sampson with Sinclair Williams of 1×1 Leadership, Principal Ken Fairchild and John Lawson of 1×1 Leadership. (Patty Brant/ Immokalee Bulletin)

Principal Ken Fairchild started things off with a video clip of one of his own role models – none other than Ralph Sampson – at the top of his form when he played for the Houston Rockets in the 1980s.

2012 inductee Basketball Hall of Fame Board of Director member Sherman Brown introduced the man himself saying that Ralph Sampson could be anywhere in world he wanted to be – but chose to come to Immokalee to talk to them.

One of only 350 elite professional basketball players of all time who have been inducted into the Hall of Fame, Ralph Sampson is 7’4” , just 180 pounds and one of the best centers to play the game.

Mr. Sampson told the students that “the greatest assets of this community are in this room” before launching into his message.

From the first, he explained how education is the key to success and how he, with the blessing of his parents, turned down $1 million to play for Boston Celtics right out of high school. He knew he wasn’t ready to play with the pros and that an education would serve him much better. Coming from a hard working farm family, much like so many of Immokalee’s families, he did not let the lure of money and fame get in the way of becoming the person he really wanted to be.

He chose to go to the University of Virginia where every year he turned down offers from the pros, and chose to continue his education. By the end of his college career, he had been named college Player of the Year twice, and earned his degree in speech communications.

As he shared snippets of his growing up, Immokalee kids learned that, in spite of the years between them, the young Ralph Sampson was not really very different from themselves.

He was one in a small high school class with only four African American students in Harrisonburg, VA. His early years instilled a solid work ethic in him and motivated him to become successful. He learned discipline from his parents. As he told the students, “It’s your own fault if you don’t use your assets.”

He used his passion, motive and potential to become a success on the basketball court but more importantly in life and challenged the students about what they would do with theirs.

As he often does at such events, Mr. Sampson took contact information from several students in the audience, promising to keep in touch and follow up on their progress.

One student, Keana Miller, captured his attention when he asked her what she wanted to be. She refined her first response, “I want to be a nurse” with “I will be a nurse.” To further questioning, she told him she is so adamant because of her internal drive and because of support from her mom and brother.

Mr. Sampson drove his points home with one simple word: MAP: Motivation ( you must self motivate to go to school daily); Attitude (makes a difference in everything you do); and Plan (allow your parents, teachers and coaches to help you plan for success).

He even illustrated the importance of these three strategies through a tragedy in his own family. Every person is capable of being a success, he showed them, “it depends on how bad you want it.”

Tish Sotello. a life coach, accompanied Mr. Sampson and helped the students understand the importance of self affirmation. Tell yourself every day that you’re amazing, she said, and see what you can achieve by the end of the school year.

Mr. Sampson said he will be back in April for a golf tournament and promised to follow up on students at that time.

Thanks to 1×1 Leadership, Immokalee students have had the opportunity to learn from several Basketball Hall of Famers over the past several years: Spencer Haywood, Manny Jackson and Calvin Murphy.

Patty Brant, Publisher of the Immokalee Bulletin can be reached at pbrant@newszap.com

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